16 August, 2018

Training a Dog for Mushing (Sled Dogging)

For years, I have studied sled dogging and sled dog breeds. That was from my interest in sled dogging myself. From studying and also personal experience, I learned what was the best way in training a dog how to sled dog.

I first learned it is best to start out with the youngest puppy when purchasing a dog, and also it's best to start out by training the dog basic training first. I have read several blogs and pieces from websites, where the musher did not train their dog basic stuff first, but only sled dogging. I have learned through experience that training is best in order to have a more obedient dog. I think obedient training is a must, especially with larger dog breeds.

I purchased harnesses for my dogs and got them use to getting in and out of them, and also got them use to wearing the harness. Depending upon how big the dog is, the best way I learned is to place the dog between your legs so they cannot wiggle away from you. Your legs sort of locks them.

Then what I did next was tie something to the harness, then allow the dog to drag an item they are able to carry. This will get them use to pulling something, and something dragging behind them. I used sticks outside. Depending upon the size of the dog, I picked a stick I knew they could pull. I learned however to make sure the dog knows the difference between sled pulling and just going for a walk.

I used a large space then walked and ran with the dog, telling them the commands. I learned to never use the go command, Mush, for this is only for Hollywood and it's not a command real mushers use. The correct command is Hike! Stop is Whoa! Right is Gee! Left is Haw! and to slow down is Easy! You can also use Alright! for a go command, but I'm sure you can find whatever is easiest for you to use.

Dogs can be stubborn sometimes, which I believe the wrong time to be stubborn is when you are trusting them to pull you. This is the reason why I believe is best to make sure your dog is obedient and gets lots of obedient training first. Still, Northern Dog Breeds are known to be stubborn dogs. I have had a dog to refuse to stop when they were pulling me on a skateboard. It's uncertain what to do during this situation. I have gotten hurt because a dog refused a command. So now I jump off whatever I'm using and just run after the dog. Of course, depending upon where you're running the dog, the dog can get hit by a car or something caused by its dumb decision to not obey a command.

I think you don't just have to use a sled for mushing. Yes, dog sleds are for the winter, but you can also use skateboards, roller-skates, scooters, bikes, skis, ATV's and whatever other tool people can use to allow their dog to pull them. I'm sure other people can come up with different ways.

I have learned the hard way that sled dogging does take lots of practice and balance. You have to maintain good balance in order to use any of these methods for mushing. It does get bad when you fall off and your dog is still running! It is bad having to chase after your dog all bruised up, but it's worse when you're being drug. So I think it's good to train your dog to stop when this happens. I had trained my dog to stop if they see I fell or hurt. Like this one time I badly injured my hand. My dog immediately stopped almost like she knew when to stop running. I learned also that you can get bumps and bruises from mushing.

Despite this, sled dogging has always been my favourite sport. It's a good way to exercise dogs and have a special trust moment with your dog.    

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